Trend to Collect: Graphic Realism
Printed by Sirocco Screenprinters, North Haven, Connecticut, under the supervision of Ives-Sillman, New Haven
Publisher Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut
Series: In Sandwich and Soda, Lichtenstein invigorates the western still life in terms of popular culture. Objects are centered on a tabletop, in accordance with the conventions of still life, but they come directly out of ordinary American experience. They are hardly timeless: a sweating glass tumbler of bubbling cola, a squared crustless sandwich, and two straws in a paper sleeve resting on a round plate. Although the artist works in a recognizable realist style, he simplifies the details of objects, reduces their colors to blue and white. The flat rectangles of the blue table and the red background also suggest the new American abstraction—perhaps in a witty reference to the important work of Ellsworth Kelly. The elements of Lichtenstein's style call to mind the visual qualities of American promotional advertising, more than the styles of traditional realist art. Lichtenstein's still life is an American "come-on." The technique and materials that Lichtenstein uses are also more linked to commercial practice than the fine arts. Screenprinting was a process originally created in the early twentieth century to manufacture printed labels for consumer goods. The surface itself on which the artist printed his image is not traditional printing paper. It is an acetate sheet with no links to high art. Lichtenstein's Pop still life ironically sets itself up to be measured against the great Dutch tradition of still-life painting. There is humor in this American lowbrow still life taking itself so seriously. Lichtenstein cleverly reminds us of its American identity in his color choices: red, white, and blue. If comically absurd, his still life is nonetheless gorgeous in its rich colors and shiny plastic surface—an enticing countertop lunch.
Signature: Unsigned and Unnumbered as published
M. Corlett, The Prints of Roy Lichtenstein: A Catalogue Raisonne 1948-1993, New York, 1994, Catalog Reference 35, reproduced page 76 in color (another impression reproduced).
Bianchini, Lichtenstein Drawings and Prints,Seacaucus, NJ, 1988, Catalog Reference 7, reproduced page 218 in black and white (another impression reproduced).
Henri Zerner, The Graphic Art of Roy Lichtenstein, Catalogue of exhibition, September 13-October 26, Cambridge, MA, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, 1975.
When American Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein painted Look Mickey in 1961, it set the tone for his career. This primary-color portrait of the cartoon mouse introduced Lichtenstein’s detached and deadpan style at a time when introspective Abstract Expressionism reigned. Mining material from advertisements, comics, and the everyday, Lichtenstein brought what was then a great taboo—commercial art—into the gallery. He stressed the artificiality of his images by painting them as though they’d come from a commercial press, with the flat, single-color Ben-Day dots of the newspaper meticulously rendered by hand using paint and stencils. Later in his career, Lichtenstein extended his source material to art history, including the work of Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso, and experimented with three-dimensional works. Lichtenstein’s use of appropriated imagery has influenced artists such as Richard Prince, Jeff Koons, and Raymond Pettibon.
American, 1923-1997, New York, New York, based in New York and Southampton, New York
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